By Sammy Park
Frida Kahlo is hailed as one of the most important feminists that we recognize today. She was a fierce Mexican patriot and was unashamed in her activism. The image of Frida Kahlo, an iconic Mexican painter known for her unfiltered portrayals of women, has recently been commercialized. The movement has hijacked not only Kahlo’s image, but her ethics as well. One of the reasons Kahlo was important was because of her unibrow, which, even though it opposed the time’s beauty standards, was purposely darkened to her preference. It did not matter that men didn’t find it attractive. Kahlo enhanced her natural body hair because she wanted to.
Currently, the ‘Frida’ items sold make their interpretation of Kahlo not more beautiful, but more in line with Eurocentric beauty standards. Photoshopping Kahlo’s unibrows and mustache is dismissing the way she wanted to look.
By commercializing Frida Kahlo, people are disrespecting her beliefs. As a woman who fought against capitalism and a member of the Mexican Communist Party, she would never want her personhood to be reduced to an overpriced Etsy item. “As a Mexican American, I feel like it’s just another case of white people taking an iconic woman and symbol of Mexican pride that doesn’t belong to them, dismissing her agency, and reducing her to an ‘ethnic’ accessory for white people to pick up at Forever 21 so that they can feel culturally aware without doing anything to help the Latino community,” sophomore Ciena Venezuela-Peterson said.
Wearing Kahlo’s face on earrings or tote bags is disrespectful to her and her Mexican heritage. Kahlo, who was extremely proud of her Mexican ethnicity, would not want her image displayed across the chests of people who are unaware of her activism and the oppression of her people.
There is a difference between wearing a t-shirt with Frida Kahlo because one agrees with her political views and just wearing her face because it fits one’s style. Wearing items that go against the ideals Kahlo held silences her voice and demeans her accomplishments.
What we need to acknowledge is that revolutionary people of color do not exist to be put on a white person’s t-shirt or embroidered onto socks for the ‘aesthetic.’ This is is objectification, and disrespects one of the most powerful female figures of our time. It is time to Kahlo her as a human being, not as a decoration.